Packers, Lions Circle Thanksgiving Matchup

For Detroit, this game is the ultimate measuring stick after years of ineptitude. For Green Bay, this game has plenty of meaning, too, after an ugly loss at Ford Field last season. Let the hype begin!

Jim Schwartz hit the nail on the head: "We can't make the mistakes we made (Sunday) against Green Bay."

No. If the Detroit Lions throw interceptions on their first two possessions, fumble the ball away on their third and give up a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday, as they did against the Panthers on Sunday, it will be a long, bitter Thanksgiving day.

The Lions rallied from a 24-7 deficit to beat Carolina 49-35, raising their record to 7-3 and keeping their playoff hopes alive. According to STATS LLC research, Detroit is the only team since 1950 to come back from deficits of 17 or more points to win three times in a season.

This is also the first Lions team since 1952 that has scored 45 or more points three times in a season.

"We can get hot as a team," Schwartz said. "We can get defensive stops, force turnovers and start scoring points in a hurry. We can get as hot as any team in the league, and you saw that in the third quarter (against Carolina)."

Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who threw four interceptions in the second half the previous week in Chicago, started 3-for-8 with two more interceptions to open Sunday's game. But he finished 28-for-36 with 335 yards and five touchdowns. The scoring passes went to five different receivers running back Kevin Smith (28 yards), receivers Titus Young (3) and Nate Burleson (16), and tight ends Tony Scheffler (17) and Brandon Pettigrew (7).

"The worst thing that could have happened (after the slow start) was to all of a sudden get conservative and stop taking shots downfield," Schwartz said. "He kept on taking shots."

And the defense kept getting stops. The Lions were able to keep steady pressure on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, forcing four interceptions.

"This is a big win for us, but at the same time, on Thursday, this game isn't going to mean much," Burleson said. "Like I told the guys when we broke it down, 'Enjoy this win, celebrate if you want to, but as soon as you lay your head on the pillow and close your eyes, it's time to start thinking about Thursday.'"

The Lions haven't won on Thanksgiving since 2003 when they beat Green Bay. Included in that turkey of a streak are losses to Mike McCarthy-led teams in 2007 and 2009.

The Packers, fresh off beating Tampa Bay 35-26, are 10-0 for the third time in franchise history and the first time since 1962. Yet, the Packers aren't resting on their 10-0 laurels as they go into a Thanksgiving matchup with the rival Lions.

"It's our Super Bowl, too," Packers defensive end Ryan Pickett said. "If we go there and beat 'em, the division (race) is pretty much up. That would put them four games behind us. So, this is going to be a big game for us. We've got it circled as well."

While Pickett forgot to include the Chicago Bears, who also are 7-3 and giving chase in the NFC North, the Packers can start thinking about more than closing in on the division title if they spoil the Lions' holiday.

The first meeting of the season with Detroit, which will visit Green Bay on New Year's Day to finish the regular season, comes at the end of a grueling three-games-in-11-days stretch for the Packers.

As well as they played in a 45-7 rout of the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night, Nov. 14, the Green Bay players weren't rejoicing over their win over the Buccaneers.

"We were inconsistent on a lot of stuff. Stupid things," running back Ryan Grant said.

Admittedly frustrated quarterback Aaron Rodgers took the critical self-assessment a step further by saying, "I'm not going to speak for anybody else, but personally, I just didn't play my best game. So, I've got to look at myself first. I've got to play better, and (the final score) probably won't be as close."

Still, Rodgers' 299 passing yards and three touchdowns were needed to ensure the Packers kept their perfect record intact after the Bucs rallied in the second half to get within two points on two occasions.

"It's a win, but we're not too happy about ourselves," linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We're going to come out swinging on Thanksgiving.

They'll come out swinging against a team that's been firmly in their sights since losing at Detroit 7-3 on Dec. 12.

"Detroit's a tough opponent, man," nose tackle B.J. Raji said. "They're a division opponent. They know us pretty well. They beat us up pretty bad both times last year. Last year, we were able to sneak away with a win here at home; they kind of beat us up a little at their dome. They're one of those teams that has something they feel like they have to prove. Even though we're 10-0, we're not relaxing."


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